The ‘Thomas the Tank Engines’ of South America

The Thomas the Tank Engines of South America (I’ve named our locals Alfonso and Ángel) spend their days lurching up and down Cerro Artilleria, having done so now for 126 years. Not surprisingly though, they’re looking a bit worn and tired these days with a worryingly wonky overgrown track to cling to that incrementally guides the carts the 175 metres up to their high perch and then back down again, all overlooking the entire city and bay. We do this trip every day (only up of course, you walk down, and if there’s a queue you walk up – Ant) and we never tire of its quirky uniqueness, though occasionally with the odd sudden shudder of the carriage you do wonder how much longer they’ll be able (allowed even) to continue. As we live at the top of Cerro Artilleria we, and I guess the other residents up here, are somewhat reliant on Alfonso and Ángel. If restoration has to happen, like with some of the other in fact younger ascensors, then the alternative, as you’ve probably guessed, is steps, steps and yes, more steps – the equivalent I suppose of ‘up hill and down dale’, Chileno style.

Our apartment is located beside Cerro Artilleria and has the same amazing view, over the bay towards Viña del Mar and beyond to the snow-capped Andes, and most pleasing of all, Aconcagua in all its massive 6,962 metre glory over there in Argentina!

We’re mesmerised by the view from the apartment and the ever-changing vista – spectacular sunrises and sunsets, deliciously cold fog-bound mornings, jet-blue sunny days and the endlessly ever-ready port. There’s always something new to look at.

For us, this is the perfect place. We can work all morning with a pot of coffee on the stove, the occasional glance out of the window, a stretch on the balcony in the sun and then in the afternoon, a spot of lunch and a wander around town.

Despite yesterday’s misgivings about Valpo’s disrepair (I feel guilty for unloading a bit of negativity) this place is intoxicating, I guess more than anything for its ‘take me as you find me’ attitude and unique character. There are no airs and graces here, it’s raw, real and decidedly Chilean. We love it.


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